Late last Sunday I landed in New York City’s JFK Airport. From International Arrivals I went straight to my bed battling a sine wave fever, chills, shakes, headaches, nagging aches and pains all over my precious little body, a sore throat, and an ever souring disposition (“a big yes on that one” sayeth she who must be obeyed), all of which kept me confined to my apartment for the week. Until a trip to a doctor on Friday to happily learn most of the rest of me is fine, I hadn’t seen more than the view from my window, and from the street level sounds below for all I knew I could still be in Athens where I caught the &^%$ bug.
I guess it could have been worse. If I’d flown in this Sunday (tomorrow) with the same symptoms, there’s no telling where I’d be. Quite possibly in quarantine at Bellevue Hospital.
That’s not meant to be a joke.
Homeland Security has beefed up immigration operations to include temperature testing in certain situations. And each of us knows why. I don’t even have to mention the word. The situation is alarming and the country is taking it seriously. At least the media is reacting as if it is whether or not the people on the street quite get it yet.
I see actual concern—fear is too strong a word—in the eyes of some of the journalists covering the story. Of course, crisis always attracts political opportunists, and with Congressional Elections looming a little more than three weeks away, they’re out in droves, some brandishing petitions screaming “close our borders to those diseased places.”
I wonder if those same folks would have been on the side of the Indians back in 1492? Nah, I see them as more likely standing shoulder to shoulder with the mighty ostrich, prepared at the first sign of danger to bury their heads in the sand.
Opportunistic fear mongering aside, “What’s going on here?”
Two nights ago I heard an articulate leader of an international relief organization offer an empirical assessment of the state of our world. She didn’t mean to make it sound that way, but that’s how it came across to me.
She said human relief disasters are measured on a scale from one through three, with three the most serious. In the past, the worst world situation her organization had seen involved two level-three crises at one time. Currently there are six. That’s three times more than anything she’d ever seen before. “It’s all hands on deck time,” she called it.
Like I said, “What’s going on here?”
Some suggest Nostradamus was right and the end is near, he was just off by a couple of years. (I know, he never actually predicted the end of the world or mentioned 2012, but try telling that to the end of the world folk.)
It’s now up to our world leaders to prove the doomsayers wrong and keep their respective nations’ ostrich heads under control. The best way to achieve that is with a Marshall Plan of mandatory remedial playschool in which all world leaders learn how to play well with others. But as that’s an impossibility, the next most likely effective method of galvanizing the world into united action is by appealing to the single trait shared by virtually all political types in their DNA: protect your personal self-interests above all else.
The six level-three relief situations plaguing our world at this moment continue to inflict massive, horrid suffering in their regions. But only one directly threatens devastating consequences to all parts of the globe, regardless of political alignments.
Again, we all know what that one is called.
Indecisiveness in addressing the epidemic confronting West Africa has brought the world to the brink of pandemic. More of the same will bring the horror of West Africa to Westphalia, Westminster, Ouest Paris, West Texas…. No place will be safe.
Will corrupt opportunists in the suffering West African countries seek to profit off the world’s generosity no matter the additional suffering their greed inflicts on their countrymen? Of course, it happens in every disaster. I shall now pause to draw a breath so as to not make some injudicious reference to Haiti.
But at the most basic—call it selfish—level, what choice does the world have? Medical professionals on the ground appear united on where this is headed, and public perception is simmering toward panic. Look at the demonstrations in Spain by health workers, or in England by folks who clean the planes of flights out of West Africa.
This is a matter of physical self-preservation, and it is time for those in charge to realize that and act accordingly. The “it can’t happen here” or “it only happens to those who do things we don’t” mentality won’t work in this instance. There’s no psychological safe haven for denying the risk you have at contracting Ebola.
There, I said it, Ebola. Sorry folks, but if you breathe, touch, swallow, or simply have eyes or a cut on your skin you’re at risk. Learn about how it spreads, its commonly confused symptoms, and mortality rates on this CNN video.
We damn well better press our governments to do all that they can to battle and defeat Ebola on its current home turf. Otherwise, as surely as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, in the not too distant future Ebola will make it into neighborhoods where we say, “I’m home.”